The Psychological Affect of a Gentle Leader on a Dog

With a Gentle Leader, your dog knows you're in charge.
Hemera Technologies/ Images

The name Gentle Leader is more than just a marketing term for a certain type of headcollar. The brand name also describes the psychological effect it produces in dogs. While relatively simple in appearance, this headcollar is designed to exert slight pressure so your dog understands that you're the boss -- you outrank him in the canine hierarchy.

Gentle Leader Headcollar

The Gentle Leader headcollar consists of two nylon straps. Fit the neck strap snugly at the back of your dog's neck, above his windpipe and behind the ears. The other strap fits loosely around his nose, behind the edges of his mouth. Properly adjusted Gentle Leader collars allow the dog to open his mouth for most activities, including barking, drinking, panting and fetching, but you can close his mouth with gentle leash pressure.

Reasons for Using

You might be trying the Gentle Leader because you're having issues walking your dog. Perhaps your dog is constantly pulling on the leash, or he's just too hard for you to control with a conventional collar or harness and leash. Taking a walk with your dog becomes a matter of being dragged, with your dog straining and choking as you pull against him. The dog instinctively pulls against the throat pressure. There is no throat pressure from a Gentle Leader.

Canine Psyche

In a canine pack, the top dog rules the roost. You must establish yourself as top dog, or alpha, in your particular pack. The Gentle Leader helps establish this principle via the pressure put on the dog's muzzle by the nose loop. According to Premier Pet Products, distributor of the Gentle Leader, the pressure applied by that loop communicates to your dog his position in the pack, much the same way alpha dogs let lower-ranking dogs know where they stand. A pack leader uses his mouth to gently grasp the muzzle of a lesser dog, non-aggressively letting that animal know who's in charge.


While effective when used correctly, the Gentle Leader is not a miracle cure for badly behaved dogs. Put the headcollar on your dog and take it off a number of times until he's comfortable with it. You can leave it on for longer periods of time once your dog's at ease, but don't take him immediately for a walk with it. When you do start going for walks, keep the headcollar on but attach the leash initially to his regular collar or harness. You can then progress to attaching the leash to the headcollar during walks and using gentle pressure to guide your dog. When your dog tries to pull, stop going forward and wait for the leash to go slack. Praise your pup when he stops pulling. When there is no more tension on the leash, resume your walk. It can take a while, but your dog eventually learns who's calling the shots.